Truth, Lies, Decisions

An unfortunate reality

…the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages.

— Samuel Johnson

Johnson was referring to war, and there’s a newer version of the same idea – the first casualty of war is truth.

It seems disinformation – a polite way to speak of the concealment, distortion, and outright lies that characterize the latest election cycle and its end result – is now a cultural norm.

In that context, I see many people think they are at war, at war with groups labeled as “other” within our society. It becomes easy for them to justify whatever means are necessary to “win”.

Whether you think this is good will depend on you political persuasion, but as a business owner I think it is extremely dangerous no matter how you feel about politics.

I don’t want the political implications of identifying this to distract us. Whatever we think about the political landscape, and other people, and what we want this society to look like, if you are reading this you most likely care about your own business, and that means caring about other businesses.

Through the recent U.S. election campaign and beyond, an old set of tricks has been given a pivotal place in our world.

A lot of allegiance, enmity, and now policy has been driven by invented reality.

There’s no need to take a side to observe this, name it, and draw conclusions.

It takes several forms:

  • Completely fabricated history presented as real;
  • Distorted history presented as factual;
  • Actual, verifiable history and facts dismissed as fake;
  • Stories supporting a particular world view accepted without question or examination, let alone verification.

Any combination of these is justified and championed if it advances one side’s interests, condemned and dismissed if it advances the other side.

Perhaps I have been lucky to have lived in open societies with free flow of information, so I have always thought of truth as the set of facts that can be observed, verified and generally agreed upon. I am grateful it has mostly been straightforward to identify what is true and what is false, leaving aside the unknowable mysteries of life.

Of course, systematic efforts to manipulate perception of truth are not new, but for me they have been confined to Solzhenitzyn’s critiques of the Russian regime, Nazi history, Orwell’s “1984,” and third world dictatorships.

Now, it seems truth has become subjective here too.

Who stands to gain from manipulation of truth?

The truth has become any information that followers can be led to accept as true — information created to give the presenter some advantage, no matter what the basis is, regardless of verifiable facts.

In this reality, nothing needs to be substantiated to be believed, because the believer doesn’t recognize the possibility of being misled.

On top of that, no defense, proof or disproof is accepted if it contradicts the believer’s view. It is simply labeled as fake.

This may work to produce a result somebody wants in the realm of politics, and it certainly goes a long way to explain how such deep divisions have been created among us.

However, you and I are business people, and if we have any expectation of success we know decisions must be based on the factual, observable, measurable, verifiable, double-checkable realities we are confronted with.

Take Verne Harnish’s 4 leverage points for business growth: Strategy, People, Execution, Cash.

How would things turn out if…

  • …your business strategy was based on the ideal business environment of your imagination, and not on the current needs of your market, on economic data from reliable sources, and on the competitors working today to take your share of business with distinct propositions and advantages?
  • …if your hiring and management decisions were guided by the behavior of people you like on TV, and not the personalities, capabilities and behavior of the employees and associates you are actually dealing with?
  • …if your execution was guided not by the data in your analytics, the choices of your prospects, the set up of your shop and equipment, but on data you made up, the actions of people who do not use what you produce, and machinery you don’t own?
  • …if you handled your business finances not based on the balances you read in your statements, the cash flow you see in daily updates, the margins you see in reports from your accountant, but on numbers you make up in each case according to how you feel that day?

To understate it very politely, your business would soon be in trouble.

It seems to me the same would apply anywhere people are working to achieve goals. Without planning, evaluating and executing based on actual reality, goals are just dreams, and outcomes likely to be nightmares.

So here’s my takeaway.

Our new reality requires us to continually ask:

  • What is really going on here?
  • Are things really as they seem?
  • What am I missing over there if my attention is focused here?

We must stay skeptical, inquisitive and pragmatic.

Don’t stop at believing what you have always believed, don’t accept analysis without question, look at the biggest views as well as the small details, and ask what is actually happening in the economy and in society — over the long term as well as right now.

I think a lot of advice in the industry guides owners to ask: what can I do to be a more efficient, more competitive printer?

Many are finding good answers and making good strategic moves. Even so, there are bigger questions to ask, and I encourage you to figure out what they are and to find answers. I believe that’s the key to building a business poised to thrive in the new era that’s rapidly evolving around us.

Take a hard look at the realities of your situation, your market, and the trends in the economy, and use what you can see for yourself and verify to answer the big questions:
  • How do I position my business to be relevant and valuable to the market over the next decade, and beyond?
  • What opportunities are there to take advantage of new trends, and avoid being tied to outdated ways of doing things?
  • What resources do I need to accomplish all this?

Sound decisions depend on accurate analysis of all relevant inputs – firmly grounded in reality.

Any other approach is just inviting disaster.

Where to go from here

We have ideas to help you answer these kinds of questions, remove uncertainty about your path forward, and give you an enormous leg up in preparing for the next evolution of the smaller printing business.

Get in touch to start the conversation.